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Bath Spa Band
Bath Spa Band was formed in 1921 as the St James Mission Band under the conductor Tom Thorne. The band was part of St James Church in the city centre which was later destroyed in the war.
By 1930 the name was changed to the Bath Spa Imperial Band when the church fell out with the band, disapproving of its involvement in contesting which was strictly against church rules.
In 1938 Wilf Horler became conductor and although the band was disrupted during the war, it managed to reform with a new uniform derived from surplus Special Constables' uniforms. The band was very successful during this period, winning many prizes in band festivals and contests.
Gerald Miles, our longest serving member in the band, joined on trombone in 1952. Gerald has played tenor and bass trombone for almost 60 years. Gerald insists he doesn't really like brass bands and would have preferred to have played in a dance band.
By 1960, Len Haines, previously principal euphonium and bandmaster became musical director, taking the band from the national third section to the second section in London.
1962 saw the start of a period of sustained progress, under the direction of Russell Buckley and another principal euphonium and bandmaster, George Jardine. During this time, the band won many prizes at contests, also representing Bath in the second section at the National Finals in London. This culminated in the band being promoted to the championship section in 1977.
Both Ken Ash and Larry Coles, two of our longest serving members joined during this time. Ken in 1960 and Larry in 1965 (Larry had previously joined for a period from 1952-54). Ken has played almost every instrument in the band, starting on tenor horn, then flugel, cornet, E flat bass and currently B flat bass. Larry started on euphonium, winning many solo prizes but has since transferred to the cornet.
By 1968 the band had dropped "Imperial" from its title and was known simply as the Bath Spa Band.
Tim Body, another former player was appointed musical director in 1988. Under his leadership, the band continued to win prizes and made its first trip abroad when it represented the city of Bath in its twin city of Alkmaar. Tim Body also set up the training band which has helped numerous players, young and old, progress into the senior band. Today the training band is thriving under the leadership of Rachel Jennings, a teaching assistant at Norton Hill School, Midsomer Norton.
During the 90s, Melvyn Howe took over the role as conductor and was later followed by Dave Walker, our current musical director in 2000. Since then, the band has progressed onwards and upwards. The Mayor of Bath became our patron in 2002 allowing us to use the full city of Bath coat of arms – a great honour.
In April 2006, we recorded our first CD Aquae Sulis. In 2007, the band started working with Dave Hayward, another ex-player who is now a professional band trainer. Our regular training sessions with Dave have helped to improve standards and in March 2008, helped the band win second prize in the third section of the West of England Brass Band Championships in Torquay, meaning qualification to the National Finals in Harrogate in September 2008. Building on this success, the band has achieved promotion to the national 2nd section from January 2011. Other recent contest successes include winning the third section of the Wessex Brass Band Association Contest for the past two years running. In 2008, the band took part in a prestigious concert in the Forum, Bath, where we shared a stage with Foden's Band and Bath Philharmonia. Several of our members have also been involved in the recording of the BBC series Larkrise to Candleford.
Bath Spa Band today has a strong team of instrumentalists from Bath, Bristol and Wiltshire as well as players from local schools and Bath's two universities. The band still rehearses in the city centre at Elim Pentecostal Church, Charlotte Street. The band is a non-profit organisation with no professional players and is proud to represent the city of Bath on a local and national level.
The band plays regularly at the Bath International Music Festival's Party in the City as well as performing a regular concert programme for audiences in the local parks and gardens, churches and retirement homes.